Never under estimate the magic of Christmas or the power of a kiss

The phone vibrated and buzzed in her hand seconds after she unplugged it from the bedside charger to take into the living room for the pictures.

‘Oh, no…!’ she thought as she saw “UMC” light up the screen.

“Hello?  Yes, I understand.  Yes, I see.  I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”  Steve rounded the corner as she clicked off.  Be-decked fully in the Santa outfit they’d rented that afternoon, he hardly looked like any kind of jolly old elf when he saw her getting off the call.  A call at this time of night usually meant one thing.

“Don’t tell me, Mel…  Not tonight, not now?”  Lately he had stopped trying to mask the irritation in his voice.

“I’m sorry honey.  Car wreck on the interstate.  They’re sending one, maybe two to our ER.”

“But the suit, the pics for the kids, what’s Santa going to do, take a selfie?”

“I have to go right away.  Go ahead and fill the stockings and bring out the presents and hopefully I’ll be back in an hour or two and we can take some quick pics with the finished product, you know, ‘Santa caught in the act’.”  She smiled weakly.

“Sure, sure, so much for doing this thing together, huh?”  His shoulders slumped and he looked tired enough for both of them.

She pecked him on the cheek as she grabbed her coat and headed toward the door.


Ben stared hard at the bottom of the bunk above him.  He could see the bulge where Kenny’s butt weighed the tired springs down toward him.  He used to stare at them and fear that some night they’d give away and a mass of jagged wire and his older brother would come crashing down on him mangling his face and chest.  He didn’t worry that much about it anymore.  He didn’t worry he’d wind up in mom’s ER although it would be nice to have her take care of him the way she used to before she went to work there.  He’d heard them fighting again after he and his brothers were sent off to bed.

Kenny never seemed to worry about his parent’s arguments.  Since they shared the middle bedroom he’d asked him a couple times the morning after, “You hear mom and dad fighting last night?”

Kenny almost always answered the same way, “Yeah, so what?  Grown-ups argue about the stupidest things.  As long as they weren’t arguing about how to punish me for something, it’s no big deal to me.”

Paul, who was five years older and had his own room, claimed he never even heard the fights.  Ben guessed maybe Paul was too busy dreaming about Tricia or Tina or one of the other middle school girls he talked to all the time on the phone to pay much attention to their parents.  He wished sometimes he could blow them off or not notice like his brothers.  Unfortunately, he spent a lot of nights studying the sagging springs of their overused bunkbed.  They’d been fighting a lot these days, it seemed like.

Mom was always busy, leaving the house at odd hours.  He’d learned to hate hearing her phone go off after supper was over.  It seemed like as soon as it buzzed he held his breath, straining to hear her side of the conversation.  He saw the looks between the two of them.  It happened enough now that they hardly even spoke.  There was the buzz, a quick conversation from his mom, the looks and then she was out the door.  He knew she was on-call and that as a new surgical nurse she had to cover the stuff that came into the ER.  He just wished it didn’t break things up all the time.  As near as he could tell the arguments were mostly about money and time spent doing things around the house.  Words like “sharing responsibilities” and “time commitment” and “career advancement” seemed to get thrown around a lot.

His dad had an office job somewhere downtown but he always took them to school and picked them up.  With the three of them in soccer and baseball and swimming they spent a lot of time in the car after school.  He was used to doing homework as he rode along or waited while one of his brothers practiced or played a game.  He didn’t mind it much and sometimes mom was able to join them for a game.  She would show up on the sidelines in her scrubs and sit with them but more often than not the bag chair they sat up or the spot they saved in the bleachers was empty.  Sometimes when she showed up the tension came along with her.  He wished he couldn’t feel it.  He wished he was more like his brothers.  It almost made him wish she just wouldn’t come and he felt awful about that.  Almost as awful as he felt on nights like this, Christmas Eve, as he stared at Kenny’s butt.  As deep in thought as he was however, he heard the loud bump from downstairs without a doubt.

He knew he didn’t dare go running down the stairs because he was supposed to be asleep but he thought he better check things out.  Slipping quietly from underneath the covers he softly opened the door and listened.  He thought he heard some rustling but maybe that was just his imagination?  Tiptoeing down the hall he eased down the first few stairs and peered around the corner into the kitchen and froze.


He had no idea why he kept the Santa outfit on while he filled the stockings.  Maybe he was determined to make the night somehow special even though it had turned out like so many other nights when they had planned something; him alone.  He knew Mel’s position and where she was on the totem pole being new at the Med Center and recently graduated.  He didn’t blame her outright, he just hated what seemed like the constant intrusion.  They thought they would do something kind of fun this year and fill stockings and place gifts together and she would take some pictures of “Santa” doing his work and here he was flying solo.  He knew things, especially time, were slipping away from them.

The boys were growing up way too fast.  He was sure Paul didn’t believe in Santa and Kenny seemed to not really care but Ben, the little guy, seemed to have a soft spot for the old guy in red and all things family in general.  It would mean the most to him and it might slow the other kids’ roll toward puberty just a tad.  In his mind he dismissed that idea quickly.  Who was he kidding?  There probably wasn’t much that would slow things down.  Maybe that’s what bothered him so much about Mel’s absence all the time.  He could see what she was missing; he just wasn’t sure she could.  He knew the social stuff and growing up that all the boys were doing under the watchful eyes of just half of their parent team.  Tonight, as he rolled out Paul’s new bike and absentmindedly knocked over a kitchen chair, he couldn’t help but wonder if this was always how it was going to be: him, doing the family thing while Mel worked.  Pulling the boys’ new sleeping bags out of the closet and laying them out he wondered if they would even be able to find time where they could all get away next summer to use them.  As he fluffed them out on the floor he nearly fell over from fright as Mel came around the corner.

“Holy crap!  You scared the heck out of me!” he whispered.

“Sorry honey, I didn’t want to wake the boys.” she whispered back.

“What happened?  I thought I wouldn’t see you for a couple hours.”

“The case went sideways and they had to take them to county so our surgeon went there and county’s team was going to assist.”

“Oh.” It was all he could think to say.  He didn’t want to get into things with her again so he just sort of stood there like a dope.  Apparently, she felt differently.

“Honey, I’ve been doing some thinking.  I know things haven’t been good with us and I know I haven’t been around as much as I should be and as much as I want to be.”

He steeled himself for another round of justification.  He could feel his blood pressure rise under his rented beard and cap.

“So, I think that I will put in notice for reassignment.  I need to get off the on-call list and back in a clinical setting.  It won’t pay quite as much but while the boys are younger it will give me regular hours.  I hate missing their activities and I hate us not going to them together.”  She reached out and lightly embraced his chin under the itchy beard.

“I miss my favorite Mr. Kringle, especially now.” and she pulled his face in toward hers.

Her kiss was sweet and warm and renewing and reminded him once again why he had fallen in love with her so long ago.  He gazed into her eyes questioning, as if to say, “You’re sure?”

She nodded her head as they kissed again

Ben was almost certain his mom and Santa had heard his gasp as he retreated back up the stairs.  He had to push down his inclination to run down the hall and jump back in bed, instead he speed-walked, flailing his arms and silently opened and shut his door breathlessly slithering back between the covers.  ‘Holy cow!  Holy cow!  What had he just seen?’  He couldn’t be sure.  ‘Santa and his mom?  What was that all about?’  As he lay there trying to pull himself together his mind reeled.  Gradually though, he began to feel more like himself and the more he thought about what he had seen, he felt sort of a weird calm come over him.  There was something familiar in the way Santa and his mom had embraced and even how they kissed.  It was really strange and really difficult to figure out.  He rolled it over and over in his mind but in the end, for reasons he couldn’t begin to explain, he drifted peacefully off to sleep knowing somehow things were going to be just fine.

Special things seem to happen at the holidays.  Even though we’re pulled in a lot of different directions it’s never more important to remember what matters most.  

I hope you liked this one.  There’s more of my writing at my blog, some about the season and some about life and other things.  You can check it out by clicking here to be directed to my home page.  I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog.  It’s free and subscribing just means you will receive an email on Saturdays with links to the week’s posts.  You can subscribe right here by clicking this or do so at the home page.  And please don’t worry, I never sell or share emails so you won’t get a bunch of junk by subscribing.